Name: Justin Keats
Hometown: Moreno Valley, CA
What in your dance background has shaped you into the dancer that you are today? The combination of my competitive dance upbringing, where I was encouraged to use my natural showmanship, mixed with my collegiate dance training, which was focused more on technique and the exploration of honest emotional quality, has created the dancer I am today. I’m grateful for the diversity of my training and even the conflicts between them because it has allowed me to be versatile and has given me a unique voice and perspective in dance.
What is your favorite thing about performing? I can’t pin down one reason why I love performing. It’s something that I crave and innately need. I tried giving it up once and I didn’t last long. When I perform I feel at home, I feel safe even though it can be a vulnerable thing to do. I also feel very clear minded and focused and when it’s all over there’s usually a joyous exhaustion.
What is your warm-up ritual? The how changes frequently but I like to “start a fire” as one of my professors used to say. I get my body warm so it’s more receptive to stretching. Sometimes I do that by a traditional ballet barre, other times I prefer to start on the floor. However it starts, it always ends up being a fusion of a modern warm up with yoga, Pilates, old competition jazz warm ups and core work.
What’s in your dance bag? I’m a simple man in this regard. Rehearsal clothes, a Maa Roller, deodorant and gum, because no one likes a smelly partner, and a snack in case I get peckish.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a dancer? I’m proud that I am able to do something that truly makes me, and hopefully others, happy as a career. It’s rewarding to help a choreographer’s vision come to life. Taking a director’s idea and physicalizing it, making it work for their aesthetic and making it my own takes time and dedication. Finally getting to perform a finished project is incredible and the sense of accomplishment is rewarding. It’s also really rewarding when the audience is moved or inspired or intrigued by the work. When I hear I’ve made an impression on someone I feel good about my work.
What is a normal day-in-the-life for you? Every day since moving to the city has been different for me. The only similarity is that they have all involved dance or movement in some form. I’m new to New York and I’m still trying to define what a “normal” day is. In a way I hope to never fully have a normal schedule.
What keeps you going? My Mom. As far as health and fitness goes she has always kept me going. Even now, when she lives on the other side of the country, she is still checking up on me making sure I eat right and enough. Recently she was worried I wasn’t eating enough so she bought me a blender and protein powder and mailed them to me as a surprise. For cross training I do aerial work, mainly aerial silks. It’s a great way to increase strength, stamina, pain tolerance, and flexibility. Plus it just makes me feel impressive.
As an artist, what led you to the Company? The work we are doing interests me because it has a sense of community and togetherness as well as being active and physically challenging and demanding. The partnering I’m getting to do in the work is also a draw for me. I enjoy developing a relationship with my partners and that is partly what the development of this work. Building relationships and how they influence the movement.
Describe the process of working on The Oracle? Leaning group work has been fairly standard in the way that Daniel creates the movement and then teaches it too us. Sometimes he shows it and describes it verbally, other times he only shows it and we have to pick it up through watching over and over. With duet work it’s less about copying shapes and more about figuring out what is possible between two bodies sharing weight in precarious positions. It takes a lot of dialogue between partners for things to work smoothly, which means that Daniel trusts us to try out things and then as an outside eye he helps tweak them. The most interesting part about one of the duet sections is that I can’t really see my partner Amanda. I can only feel her on my back so it takes a lot of proprioceptive concentration to accomplish the movement. Right now we have many sections of movement and I’m excited to see the whole jigsaw puzzle come together.
What has been most challenging about process and the work? I think the challenge with the Oracle for me will be stamina. I’ve danced in show before longer than an hour but never one with such active, quick, and difficult movement. It will definitely make me a stronger dancer.
Have you made any new discoveries during the rehearsal process? It’s still early on so I’m sure many discoveries will be made but as for now nothing has happened for me to reflect back on. Mainly I have just been noticing rediscovering things about myself such as my need for specificity and love of partner work.
Why do you think someone should come to see The Oracle at BAM at the end of May? What will they see? I think they will enjoy the sense of community that this piece creates. I also think they will enjoy the journey of the piece and hopefully feel as if they were along for the ride as well. Audiences will see wonderful and interesting partnering and athletic group work in an environment of controlled chaos.